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AT&T now has beef with spectrum auction

Whatever one does, you can expect the other to mimic. So maybe AT&T isn’t trying to void the rules of the 700 MHz auction, but they certainly have a problem with the rules imposed by the FCC. Theirs, though, has no thing to do with open-access; it’s about the public safety provision attached to a block of the spectrum. It seems that AT&T isn’t so much in favor of the part of the rules that says bidders must reach a service agreement with public safety officials in advance of the auction. Failure to do so would preclude a company from bidding. AT&T thinks that this is “an extreme penalty.” We think not.

Equipping public safety outlets with a private network is — or should be — the No. 1 goal of this auction. Yes, it can and will also be used to further the development of mobile technology in the U.S., but we cannot deny the importance of the public safety block.

The thing is, they clearly can’t build a network on their own. In order to utilize the spectrum, they’ll need assistance from a major wireless carrier — or at least a regional one. They telecom company would build out the network as part of their agreement for winning the auction.

But what if the winning company cared not for public safety, and purposely stalemated negotiations? Then we’d have a whole new issue to deal with. Granted, the FCC would likely intervene if things got ugly, but once again, that’s something that they’re trying to avoid by having a deal in place beforehand.

So does AT&T have something to hide, or are they just trying to cover their own asses? We’d like to think the latter, but with a company like AT&T, you can never be sure.

In other spectrum news, Frontline, “a startup made up of government and wireless industry veterans,” filed a complaint with the auction rules as well. They’re concerned that the rules still favor the big carriers, and want to ensure that a wholesale provision — previously dubbed the Google provision — be included so that smaller carriers can get a piece of the pie. We’re clearly on board with that.

So now we have three notable complaints. Our educated guesses: They all fall down, and the auction moves forward pursuant to the rules approved by the FCC in August.